Travel

Driving? Is it really necessary?

I’ve been driving in the Middle East for about a week now, and I can testify that it is not what I remember the driving in Europe to be like in the late 80s. In a word, its awful.

I would say that it’s been almost 30 years since I have driven in a country other than the USA. I have driven in Canada several times, but growing up in a border town, I don’t view that to be a different experience from American driving. Sorry Canada.

I do remember it taking a while to find a comfort level with driving when I started driving around Germany. Getting used to the traffic on the Autobahn as a teenager took a few days. Everything in Germany either moved fast or slow. But, as all things do, soon enough it was old hat. I was driving everyday just said it was home. 

That being said, I’m pretty sure the same thing will come of the hellish traffic over here in the Middle East. They say, if you can drive in NYC or L.A. you can drive anywhere. I’d say that’s about half right. Having driven in both cities, I would put the difficulty factor at about 2x NYC. Its either okay or its REALLY not okay. 

Which I guess, brings me to my question of the day. Do you feel that you need to drive when you’re traveling or do you use local means of transport? How do you get around?

Personally, I normally use local transport to get from A to B. I have found that it is usually not difficult to get where you’re going without driving. 

In Europe its particularly easy to get around without a car. Trains and taxis will get you almost anywhere you want. Those to are supported by the occasional bus trip to get to the very few places the trains don’t go. Its really super easy. 

In Central American I have used a car service to get off the beaten track. Trust me, there’s not much beaten track in Central America. In South American, planes, trains, and taxi cabs got me anywhere I wanted to go. That included all the way up to Macchu Picchu. Getting to the mountain city was as simple as a train ride and a short bus ride. It was a harrowing bus ride on a switchback dirt road straight up the side of a mountain, but it was short. 

I did resort to renting a bicycle in Ireland so I could get around the site on the southern side of Galway Bay, but that’s probably as extreme as my travel needs have been. The train and the bus got my across Ireland in fine fashion, and the bike ride through the countryside was actually very nice. 

My current need to drive is promoted by my work. Having a vehicle is necessary. That being said, there does seem to be a reasonable bus system in place, and countless taxis cruising the streets. Movement options are available in the area. The closer I get to a city, the more numerous the transport options become. There doesn’t seem to be a commuter train system in the Middle East, or at least not in the area that I am in. Still, if one wanted to venture out into the dunes, I’m sure local guide services are available for day trip options. I haven’t been in the area long enough to seek those out, but I may later on. I spent enough time in traffic now.

So do you feel the need to drive when you’re traveling? Most American naturally answer yes. Its just part of our culture. But, when abroad to you search out easier or alternate means to get around? I definitely do. Local transport options can be useful, and can save you money. European rental prices are a lot if you don’t use the vehicle every day. And many cities require that you pay to park as well. 

Whichever way you choose to get around, it should be enjoyable and as easy as possible. I’m hoping that I get used to the awful traffic soon, and things become a little more enjoyable. And wherever you travel, be safe when doing so. It can be a mad, mad world at times.

Enjoy, and get out there!


Sunrise over the Persian Gulf. Taken today. 

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Travel

US Road Trip 2017, Day 17.

The final day of the road trip can be summed up in one word … exasperating. Yup, that’s the word. 

I started out on the eastern edge of Tennessee, and headed west. After already having put on a good 4,000 miles during this little trip, I really didn’t want to be driving anymore. Yet I pressed on under an envelope of stars. 

Needless to say, if you’ve never driven east to west across Tennessee, it took FOREVER! I seriously didn’t think I was ever going to see the sign for Memphis. It was like the Hotel California of states. 

Cruise control on and coffee in hand, I finally prevailed. I crossed the mighty Mississippi River and entered Arkansas. I was happy. For about 20 minutes. 

First, I finally finished the new Daniel Silva book, House of Spies. I’m a huge Gabriel Alon fan. It was unabridged on cd, and it was excellent. I now had to go back to digging for music on the radio.

The road went to hell about 40 minutes into the state. Oh well, bad road is bad road. I continued on unbothered. 

Then, second, about 30 miles east of Little Rock, the whole interstate came to a screeching halt. There had been an accident and the interstate was closed. Stuck in the left lane, no exit even remotely close, and surrounded by tractor trailers, I was going nowhere. The scrum moved a car length  at a time for 2 1/2 hours. When we finally got up to the point where we could pass the accident, it turned out the a tractor trailer load of booze had overturned and slid down the median. You could smell alcohol, even with you windows up. It was a Greek Tragedy. 

The ramp for the bypass around Little Rock was under construction, so I had to drive through the city at rush hour. Great, more lost time. The state of Arkansas ended with an 11 mile construction cone slalom run. The signs said they were rebuilding. From what I saw, it was doubtful. 

I pulled up in Texarkana and assessed. 4 1/2 hours more misery and I could be back in Salado. No stopping now, I continued on. Interstate 30 to Dallas turned into a heavy rain mixed with road construction. Finally getting to Dallas, the ramp for the bypass expressway (635) was closed. I had to overshoot, and come back at it from the other direction, so I could use the other south Bound ramp. I-35 south was a start-stop of road construction. The interstate was completely closed at Temple, Texas for construction. All traffic got diverted onto the frontage road. It was great fun. I pulled into the yard at 12:30am. A 19 1/2 hours of driving day. For a moment, I considered just sleeping in the truck. 

All in all, a round trip circuit road trip across 19 states (most of them crossed twice), with 7 major stops along the way. Total money spent, $ 3,276.67. Total money won, $ 642.00.

Cost: averaged out to $ 192.74 per day. Not too bad. Most of it was hotels and gas. 

I think that, that is that, for a couple days. I have to go back and check in with the real world. 

Get out there! Enjoy!


Enjoying the view in Arkansas.


There’s something you don’t see everyday. 

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US Road Trip 2017, Day 16.

With a super-casual application of my Campus School math, I have lingered too long on the trail, and it is time to go home. So, today it was back on the road. 

Fourteen hours of driving took me from Northern New York to the eastern edge of Tennessee. All in all, the drive was good. There was a lot of road construction in Virginia and New York, but the remainder wasn’t that bad. The weather was nice and the sky was blue. 

I’ve managed to make it about halfway back to Texas. Tomorrow, if things go okay I’ll get the rest of the way home. Otherwise, I’m beat.

Good night. 


The mountains of Virginia, just before the rain hit. 

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US Road Trip 2017, Day 3. 

Today was pretty much a point A to point B type of day. I had a lot of miles to make to get to my next point of interest, so I spent the day behind the windshield. 

The drive across Louisiana on I-10 was excellent. I’ve never driven that stretch of road, nor across the bayou like that, so it was extra cool. The elevated section of roadway in the Henderson Swamp area was very picture perfect for what I had envisioned the bayou to be like. Open water section with trees hiding river inlets. Live Oaks with hanging moss staggered here and there. And, it was all very green. Definitely happy I went hat way!

Turning north into Mississippi, the interstate was all something I’d seen before. An endless undulating trench of asphalt base and conifer green wall, only broken by random sections of field or small towns. This lasted until I was into Alabama, so I put my head down and went. 

Both I-59 and I-20 in Alabama are under construction, so I spent most of my time looking out for speed limit changes and State Troopers. Nevertheless, I made it into my destination of Oxford, AL unharmed. 

Realizing sometime into my journey that I didn’t actually have to cross a time zone, I decided on a small detour. I pulled an off ramp in Tuscaloosa, and took a trip to the home of SEC football. The University of Alabama is a magnificent campus, all the damned road construction not withstanding. I was looking for the giant A, so I could get a picture, but I was unable to find it. Oh well, next time. 

The night will be spent at the Super 8 Motel. It is not the nicest or newest hotel in the Oxford area, but it will do for one night. 

The reason I pulled up in Oxford, was so I might get together with two old army buddies. One a d friend from the days of barracks living, and the other my First Sargent. It’s been some time since I crossed their paths, and catching up was over due. Dinner was a wonderful mix of conversation and stories. It was an excellent idea!! 

Peace Out, from Alabama. 


Henderson Swamp, Louisiana.

The elevated roadway going across the bayou. 

The Mississippi – Alabama line. I-20. 


Dinner with old friends! 

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